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If you’re wondering, Is Sarajevo worth visiting? then you’ve come to the right place. In this post, I’ll walk you through why Sarajevo is an extraordinary place to visit.
Because, spoiler alert, Sarajevo is absolutely worth visiting. You’ll fall in love with the stunning old town, friendly coffee culture and quirky hybrid of architectural styles hailing from different eras in the city’s rich history. And, if you’re anything like me, it might even become your favourite city in the whole Balkans region!
However, there are a few things to bear in mind before deciding if Sarajevo is the best place for your European holiday. Although it is a culturally fascinating, interesting and beautiful city with some incredibly kind residents, Bosnia & Herzegovina provides a different tourist experience to other cities in Europe.
Read next: what to do in Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina
So, while I genuinely believe Sarajevo is the sort of city where you’ll leave behind a piece of your heart (I know I did), it might not be the place for you if you’re looking for a light-hearted city break or lively nightlife.
Here’s what you need to know before booking your ticket to Sarajevo…
Is Sarajevo worth visiting? 6 reasons why it is!
Sarajevo is so popular because it’s a beautiful and historically rich city, and it’s affordable! But let’s get stuck into the specifics…
Sarajevo is budget-friendly
If you’re a budget traveller (or just want to make your money go further), then Sarajevo should go straight to the top of your European city bucket list. With rooms from just 20 BAM (€10) and meal prices rarely pushing 10 BAM (€5), your biggest expense will be your flight (and you can use Skyscanner to get the best price on that!).
Sure, the low-cost museums aren’t going to be as grand as the Louvre or the British Museum but they’re incredibly poignant, niche and historically significant. Plus, there are no queues!
Unmissable attractions and thought-provoking history
My trip to Sarajevo was as devastating as it was memorable. Heartbreakingly, Sarajevo is the site of one of Europe’s worst and most disturbing contemporary war events: the Sarajevo siege and genocide in the 1990s.
Parts of the city are like a living history museum, and you can take walking tours to see areas with bullet holes and mortar shell explosions known as Sarajevo Roses.
Besides the stark recent history, you can also walk to the bridge where World War I began. Franz Ferdinand was assassinated on the Latin Bridge by a Serbian sniper, leading to a series of catastrophic events that culminated in the war.
If you’re looking for reasons to visit Sarajevo, here are some worthy attractions for a glimpse into Sarajevo’s history:
- Visit the Tunnel of Hope, once used to smuggle food and weapons into the capital (and smuggle people out) when the Bosnian Serb Army sieged the city for 1425 days. My experience here has stayed with me to this day.
- Watch a beautiful sunset from the Yellow Fortress – one of the best views in town. On the way, you’ll pass Kovaci Cemetery where you can pay respects to those lost during the 1990s war.
- Take the cable car more than 1100 metres up Trebevic Mountain before exploring the heavily graffitied bobsleigh trail on Trebevic Mountain (abandoned since its use in the 1984 Winter Olympics).
- See all the above on the Fall of Yugoslavia tour – a heartbreaking but moving and fascinating account of the city’s past led by a local guide. Plus, it’s time-efficient if you only have a couple of days in Sarajevo.
- Take a Srebrenica tour and visit the devastating location of the genocide of Bosniak Muslims, often considered the worst war crime since WWII. I’ll be honest: you’ll need a strong stomach and be prepared to shed a few tears, but a visit here is as essential as it is harrowing.
- Visit the many galleries and museums in Sarajevo.
Read next: 35 amazing things to do in Sarajevo
Although it’s difficult to hear about the war in Sarajevo, the historic tours and attractions are handled in a sensitive and compassionate manner. And although it’s challenging to listen to tales of the worst of humanity, through the generous locals and their willingness to share, you’ll find the best of it, too.
Great food, coffee culture and super friendly locals
You’ll find great coffee all around the city but the Baščaršija (central market), based within the Ottoman quarter, is a fantastic place to start. Best of all, Sarajevo dishes out consistently great coffee. So coffee snobs are in luck, whether you sit down at a local stall at the side of the road or one of the contemporary speciality cafes, such as Ministry of Ćejf or Fabrika Coffee.
As for the food, my favourite Bosnian treats include burek (a savoury pastry), cevapi (ground sausages with bread and onion) and sweet baklavas. So, if you’re still wondering if Sarajevo is worth visiting, I can assure you that foodies will certainly think so!
Klopa and Apetit are good Western food options if you want a change from hearty Balkan fare, especially if you’re searching for vegetarian options. I also loved Falafel for lunch – sit near the window so you can look out at the mosque while you eat!
If you can, chat with the locals during your coffee hunt. In my experience, the people here are incredibly generous with their time, even when talking about the tragic recent history (which many locals can still remember well). Talking about the war is a sensitive topic that I didn’t like to push people on, or bring up first, but if you do find a local open to talking about it, you’re in for a powerful conversation.
Intriguing architecture and cultural gems
From Austro-Hungarian mansions to communist apartment blocks and grand Ottoman-era mosques, Sarajevo’s rich history is prominent, even before you learn about Bosnia and Herzogivina’s past. It’s written all over the wildly different architectural styles that make Sarajevo look so unique.
Many countries have played their part in Sarajevo’s history and left their mark. With different eras come different religions; you’ll spot stunning mosques, churches and synagogues all neighbouring one another. Gazi Husrev Bey Mosque, Ashkenazi Synagogue and Sacred Heart Cathedral are three of the most beautiful.
While exploring Sarajevo, look out for street art and an assortment of handmade craft stalls. Although some of these homemade goods are overtly touristy, it’s well worth visiting Sarajevo to see the metalworkers on Kazandziluk, the city’s oldest street. The profession has been performed here since the 16th century.
Sarajevo is largely walkable
While Sarajevo might not be the biggest and most thriving of European capitals, that adds to its charm in some ways. Most key attractions can be reached on foot as you wind through the city’s many alleyways and side streets. In fact, the beautiful bazaar area is fully pedestrianised.
Having all the main attractions just a stone’s throw away from your hotel makes Sarajevo feel very convenient. It’s a pretty low-maintenance destination, and you rarely have to book restaurants or attractions in advance.
While it’s easy to find your way around on foot, I highly recommend taking a free walking tour, such as the Meet Bosnia free walking tour, which departs at 10.30am and 3pm daily.
For attractions outside of the centre, you can hail a taxi on the street or ask your accommodation for a reputable company to phone. Just make sure the meter is on to avoid scams.
Sarajevo is safe for solo travellers
Sarajevo is a tourist-friendly city with plenty of attractions, tours and English-speaking locals to make you feel at home. Hostels and hotels are used to foreign tourists and will welcome you with a chat and, if you’re lucky, a coffee. For me (a young solo woman traveller), a good reason to visit Sarajevo is that it’s a safe city with low crime rates.
Although exploring Sarajevo on foot is the most convenient and attractive way to experience the city, I used local buses to travel around the Balkans (including from Sarajevo to Mostar) and found the experience easy. The buses weren’t fancy, but they felt safe.
Although there weren’t many other tourists on the bus to Belgrade, possibly because I travelled in the off-season, no one seemed remotely interested in the fact I was a woman travelling alone.
Sarajevo is also generally safe for LGBT+ folk, as discrimination is illegal.
Read next: a complete guide to solo travel in Europe
Easy links to other beautiful Balkan cities and beyond
If you do decide to stray from Sarajevo’s walkable city centre, there’s plenty to see in regions nearby. The central bus and train stations are easy to access, connecting to other fantastic Balkan destinations.
The most popular day trip is to Mostar, a historic gem filled with cute cobblestone lanes and friendly market streets all leading towards the star attraction of Mostar, Stari Most, a 16th-century stone bridge overlooking the strikingly blue Neretva River. The bridge is often considered the most photogenic spot in all of Bosnia & Herzegovina, conveniently just 2 hours from Sarajevo via a scenic bus or train journey.
Further afield, you can use Flixbus to reach Zagreb and Vienna or use local buses for other routes. Alternatively, Sarajevo is located just 9km from its nearest airport, which has international flights to key cities in Europe and the Middle East, including Frankfurt, Vienna, Istanbul and Zagreb. Plus, 400 weekly flights between London and Sarajevo make it an accessible destination for Brits.
Is visiting Sarajevo worth it? Four reasons why it might not be:
- If you’re planning a winter trip, then be warned that Sarajevo gets chilly between November and March. In winter, Sarajevo has highs of just 4 degrees Celcius and lows of -3, on average.
- The tourist infrastructure is less glamorous than other European cities, especially in North and Western Europe. Don’t head here for luxurious infinity pools and 5* service. On that note, there’s also little nightlife. There are some great bars and hookah (shisha) joints, but they close early compared to other European cities.
- During your Balkans itinerary, you’ll quickly notice that it’s common for people to smoke indoors. I’ve even seen people smoking in the mall! Technically, it isn’t legal in restaurants but it IS legal in bars and cafes. Often, I would be trying to enjoy a coffee and cafe with a face full of second-hand smoke. Yuck!
- Sarajevo is emotionally exhausting. While the artisan markets, coffee culture and mishmash of architectural styles make Sarajevo a vibrant place to visit, its stark history encompassing war and genocide is impossible to avoid. I cried endlessly. So why visit Sarajevo if it’s so sad? Well, it’s important to understand the history of this region of Europe and honour those who suffered it.
Conclusion: Is Sarajevo worth visiting?
Yes, Sarajevo is worth visiting. My visit to Sarajevo has stayed with me far more profoundly than other European capitals. Between learning about the history, walking around the maze of streets and their endlessly contrasting architecture, and stopping for coffee in cosy cafes, Sarajevo is just one of those places I’ll remember forever.
Thanks for reading!
I hope you have a better idea of whether Sarajevo is worth visiting based on what you’re looking for.
Browse more Balkans blogs:
- The ultimate Balkans itinerary for up to 2 months
- What to do in Belgrade, Serbia
- The top attractions in Pristina, Kosovo
- The ultimate Albania itinerary
- Things to do in Tirana, Albania
- Is Albania worth visiting?
- Hiking in Theth, Albania
- Guide to Kotor, Montenegro
- 5-10 day Montenegro itinerary
- Things to do in Skopje, North Macedonia
- 2 week Romania road trip
- Things to do in Brasov, Romania
- Things to do in Timisoara, Romania
- How to spend 2 days in Sofia, Bulgaria
TRUSTED RESOURCES FOR VISITING BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA
Getting around by air – I use Skyscanner and search by month to see the cheapest dates.
Driving in Europe – use Rentalcars.com to compare car rentals in European countries (and all around the world).
For hotels and self-catering apartments, I use Booking.com. You can filter by review score and price to find the best-rated budget places. For hostels, I use Hostelworld.
To save money on accommodation, I use Trusted Housesitters, a website that connects homeowners going away and travellers who can sit their homes & pets.
Browse tours and Mostar activities on GetYourGuide and Viator.
Need travel insurance? I use True Traveller (for UK & Europe residents) since it’s affordable but covers everything you’d need including various activities, valuables and pre-existing conditions. Unlike some companies, they insure you if you’re already travelling / don’t yet have your flight home booked. Get a quote.
For travel insurance for other nationalities, I recommend Hey Mundo and for long-term digital nomad travellers, I suggest Safety Wing.
Check out my resources page for more travel discounts and budget tips from my 10+ years on the road!